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Comfort of Strangers

3.5 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Product Description

Delivering one of 2006's most anticipated releases, Beth Orton, re-emerges with a self-assuredness that can be heard, or rather felt, in her songwriting, her vocals and her guitar. Features the single "Conceived."

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Few vocalists equal the expressive subtlety of Beth Orton, whose fourth album is both her most musically spare and artistically complex to date. Not only does the production and backing by Jim O'Rourke (known for his work with Sonic Youth and Wilco) capture Orton's vocal style at its most unstudied and unvarnished, the lack of embellishment focuses all the more attention on her songwriting. From the jazzy phrasing on the deceptively jaunty "Worms" through the haunting "Feral" and the amazing grace of the closing, hymnlike "Pieces of Sky," Orton's songs give voice to the sort of knotty, prickly emotions that are as hard to define as they are deeply felt. Most of the musical dynamic features piano or guitar over an elemental, insistent rhythm section, making the coloring of an occasional string section ("Conceived"), harmonica ("Absinthe"), or accordion ("Safe in Your Arms") all the more striking. As an indication of the emotional range of this musical minimalism, the title cut is soothing enough to please fans of Norah Jones, while "Heartlandstruckstop" is as edgy as Patti Smith. --Don McLeese
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 7, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Parlophone
  • ASIN: B000CBSHK2
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,595 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Beth Orton's Central Reservation is one of my most loved and worn-out records, and as an artist I hold her in very high regard. Orton's musical integrity, uniqueness and high songwriting standards seemed to be intact from day one of her career, and her voice has always been unmistakably beautiful. No one sounded like Beth Orton back in the mid 90's and nobody does now.

Having said all that, I thought she might have stalled a bit with her last full-length album - 2002's Daybreaker. Daybreaker wasn't without a good song or two, and was actually a pretty good record by most people's standards, it's just that you come to expect so much more from a songwriter of Beth Orton's class. Pleasingly, four years on, any notions of a slide in quality have been well and truly dispelled by her new effort Comfort Of Strangers.

Comfort Of Strangers is less immediate than previous releases and more understated musically and melodically, but sure enough, little by little, these songs begin to get under your skin. The electronic touches that adorned her earlier work are now gone in favour of a more organic approach courtesy of sympathetic producer Jim O'Rourke (Wilco). He allows Orton's soulful folk/pop songs room to breathe, and in moving away from technology her new material becomes imbued with a real sense of timelessness.

Lyrically too, she's in top form. Orton has a knack of writing about the important stuff, without being.... well.... all important about it. Like the great writer Raymond Carver, Orton sings about love, life and the nature of humanity by observing the little details, cracks and fissures in daily existence that tend to get passed over for the more obvious moments.
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Format: Audio CD
if you're trying to decide whether to shell out the extra five dollars for the bonus cd, i'd like to convince you that it is worth it.

argument #1 = the tracks on the bonus cd are just as strong as the rest of the cd, not an afterthought. no crappy remixes to be found here.
argument #2 = if two years ago beth orton put out a cd with five new songs on it for $5, you would have bought it without hesitation.
argument #3 = title track comfort of strangers #9 is particularly good, with a duet with m ward (who co-wrote the song with beth orton).

similar to pass in time, the comfort of strangers bonus disc is quality material, and well worth the extra dollars.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Ever since "Central Reservation," and other than a couple of tracks -Sweetest Deline" and her collaboration with Terry Callier, I've been missing her full emotional range, her voice and her lyrics back at the center again.

Comfort of Strangers is that promised fulfilled. Jim O'Rourke produced the miracle, reaching for Orton's heart, and recording a set of tracks that is both eclectic and finely wrought together. This is an album, that rare species of CDs that contain no duds, it's all great.

Still, gems abound. Listen for instance to her voice in the gorgeous Comfort To Stragers, Rectify, Feral Children, Safe in Your Arms, or the lyrics and groove of Worms. She can sings!

Jim O'Rourke's gift is in the nuances and details, here he offers precisely what each song needed. Some almost a wisp of guitar and a quiet bass, or piano, strings or horns in those places where it was the thing to have.

This is a great album, an obvious choice for anyone who'd followed her career, a perfect place to start in your way to Central Reservation, or just a tremendous addtion to any respectable collection.
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Format: Audio CD
Having loved the bassy beat-driven Daybreaker, Beth goes back to her Central Reservation roots with a more acoustic and "earthy" sounding album. Her voice still plays wonderfully amidst the poppy, Carole King-esque, guitar tunes. I have yet to find a heartstring tugger on this album, but I am sure in time one will emerge. Check out the music video for the first single as well. It is a good summarization of what you can expect on the album.
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Format: Audio CD
Beth Orton is a talented and unique singer-songwriter with a consistent sense of releasing good music. The soul of Beth Orton songs have always been two things - her great voice and her fantastic lyrics. "Safe In Your Arms" was my first favorite off this album. Next, "Heart of Soul" a more upbeat piece to break up the slower songs. If you're a fan of Beth's or new to her, this CD is for you. Excellent music from beginning to end. It's different in style to Trailer Park and Central Reservation, but all in all a great album.
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Format: Audio CD
I got this album from a friend who told me that it was one of those albums that had really gotten under his skin, and that I had to listen to it a few times to give it a chance. I liked some of the songs right off: worms, place aside, safe in your arms; I was definitely prone to skipping around a lot. As I kept listening, though, I started to see new things in almost all of the songs and the album as a whole really started to get to me. Her lyrics are incredible, phrasing things that I had felt but hadn't been able to articulate, and she has a particular way of emphasizing the important things with subtle vocal changes, like the repeated lines at the end of pieces of sky: "there's so many people who need to know that you're still with them even when they don't know" and her voice rises and almost cracks on the 'you're'. In contrast to the sort of numb feel of the rest of the song, it highlights the desperate attempt to accept that it's over and time to move on. I find myself doing that a lot with this album, analyzing little things...and I recommend it to pretty much anyone who likes that kind of thing, especially someone trying to come to terms with their own complicated relationship issues (which, really, is most people).
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